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Cambodia is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Unforgiving droughts and intense monsoons have hit its agricultural communities hard. District government employees are also aware that crop yields are plummeting.

To make problems worse, “many communities and local governments don’t know how to respond to climate change”, explained Southern Voices contact person and DanChurchAid colleague, Mr Polin Nop.

Nevertheless, over the previous year Southern Voices and DanChurchAid partner, the NGO Forum of Cambodia (NGOF), has been changing that - one commune development plan at a time. Now, plans throughout Cambodia show the promising signs of climate adaptation, protecting local communities from the excesses of climate shocks and sensitising government employees on the relationship between adaptation and development.
 
TOT meeting picture resized
Communication and Capacity-building
NGOF found their solution using a workshop approach, supported by international actors Plan International and the UNDP. It focused on ‘training of the trainer’ and capacity-building workshops with government employees and local members. 
 
In early 2017, civil society restrictions in many communes made this a challenge, "our members had trouble implementing even basic climate adaptation activities", he explained.
However, following recent commune elections in 2017, success prevailed. The election process opened up opportunities for dialogue, allowing NGOF to expand their communication with commune councillors.
 
This allowed NGOF to implement workshops focused on the Joint Principles for Adaptation (JPA), climate change and vulnerability assessments. In addition to targeting local government, NGOF also increased engagement with local communities. NGOF translated the JPA in Khmer, Cambodia’s native language, to increase the understanding and engagement of locals in the development process.

This shift built the communication between government employees and local communities, representing an important development in the local adaptation process. “The JPA really strengthened cooperation between local governments and communities”, explained Polin.
 
A shining example of this shift has been the empowerment of Kampuchea Women’s Welfare Action (KWWA) - a local member of NGOF. Prior to NGOF’s support, KWWA struggled with a lack of resources and low technical support to mainstream climate change in their community's local development plan.
 
After introducing members to the JPA and vulnerability assessments, KWWA were able to develop a relationship with the commune government and provide technical expertise for their new development plan.
Group photo KWWA resized again
This is indicative of how district governments have been armed with approaches to reduce climate impacts, allowing NGOF and NECA members to advise on development initiatives.
 
“We have been able to widen the scope of what development planners consider, before they were just focused on typical elements like infrastructure but not how climate threats like floods or droughts are related”, he detailed.
 
NECA Target Areas Picture Resized Crop NGOF chose specific districts throughout Cambodia for their advocacy
Using over 30 local partners, NGOF were able to support adaptation projects throughout Cambodia – and are already seeing results.
 
“We’ve also set-up local irrigation projects and early-warning systems in local districts”, explained Polin. This can help to stave off drought in numerous communities, which in-turn sustains commune development.
 
“Another focus has been to direct communes towards human development”, he added. This can be regarding activities as simple as awareness-raising. Early improvements have been made in training on sanitation using the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) model, which although small, makes a sizeable difference to quality of life in many districts.
 
National Recognition
The Cambodian government has not overlooked these activities. Now, NGOF is the official CSO representative on Cambodia’s Technical Climate Change Working Group, “this gives us a great opportunity to push for climate adaptation”, reflected Polin. This position has also opened up important new advocacy opportunities, with NGOF sharing SVA’s Adaptation Communication Policy Brief with the Cambodian government at COP23.
 
Thus, by basing capacity-building at the local level, NGOF have found an effective method to integrate adaptation into previously neglected policy areas. A promising sign of this continuing is the UNDP’s recent commitment of new finances allowing NGOF to continue capacity-building work.
 
“Our achievements have only touched a small proportion of Cambodia, but we are confident this approach can spread throughout the coming year”, summarised Polin.
 
This project was funded by the Southern Voices on Adaptation Programme through Care consortium partner DanChurchAid, in partnership with the NGO Forum of Cambodia. 

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High 5 @ Asia & Pacific

Regional Facilitator, Asia & Pacific

profile vosithaVositha Wijenayake

Vositha joined Climate Action Network (CAN) South Asia in early 2013 as Advocay and Outreach Officer.

Vositha is a CAN Leadership Development Program Fellow (2012-) and former Executive Coordinator of the Sri Lankan Youth Climate Action Network (SLYCAN).

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